Conflicted – Chapter 40

Xiao You poured water into a glass.

The embrace they had earlier played in her mind.

As he pulled her to him, she is taken aback when he wrapped his hands around her.

He had his eyes closed, swallowed the disturbing lump in his throat and wraps her tightly.

“I was afraid you’ll get sad again…” he said.

She gently pulled herself back because she knows it is not right for them to hug like this.

When she pulled back, he also slowly loosened his hands, ending the very brief hug.

She gave him a smile as took a step back. “I am fine. Don’t worry about me,” she said. “Want some water?”

Water.

Water?

She immediately looked at the glass of water she is pouring and it’s already filled to the brim.

A little bit more and it will overflow.

“Whoa,” she uttered and stopped pouring.

Xi Men, who is sitting on the couch in the living room, gazes into the kitchen upon hearing that.

Xiao You lifted the glass up to pour some of the water away.

After that, she walked out from the kitchen and into the living room.

And she walked towards him.

“Is everything okay?” Xi Men asked as she approaches him.

“Huh?” she asked. “I thought I have said I am…”

“I mean in the kitchen,” he said, as he extends his hands to take the glass of water from her hand.

Ah.

He probably heard it when she said ‘whoa’.

“Oh,” she said. “Yeah, it is okay,”

“Okay,” he smiled as he takes a sip from the glass.

She sits down on the couch, about a meter away from him.

“I am sorry, water is all I have here,” she said. “I mean… I did not prepare coffee or tea and if you want it, you may have to wait…”

“No worries about it. Anything is fine with me,” he said with a small smile on his face.

She smiled briefly.

“Umm…”

He turned his head to look at her.

“I thought you are picking Juliana up and going out for dinner with her,” Xiao You said.

He smirked, “Well, I did picked her up, but I dropped her home and then I come over,”

“Then what about dinner?”

Xi Men just smirked and shook his head.

“But Juliana waited to have dinner with you…” Xiao You said.

“It is okay. I eat dinner with her everyday anyway,” Xi Men said. “Didn’t eat together for a meal is fine,” he puts the glass of water down on the coffee table.

She bites her lower lip. “You shouldn’t have done that to her… I mean… she waited whole day…”

“I said it is fine,” he said, and looked at her.

That shushed her.

She lowered her head down and pressed the joints on her fingers.

“That’s not what I’ve expected,”

“Huh?” she looked at him, who is staring at the bags in front of him.

“I was expecting you to buy more,” he said. “Juliana really shops a lot,”

After uttering that, he frowned.

“Umm… I don’t want to buy too much…” she said. “Not like I have a lot of money…”

“Ah… her shopping stuffs are all in my car still,” he murmured.

“Huh?”

“Nothing,” Xi Men said, and then he looked at her, “The money I gave you this morning. Is it enough?”

“Oh, yes, there’s extra in fact…” she grabbed her handbag that is also on the coffee table and then digs for her wallet.

He looked at her as she opened the wallet and took the stack of cash out.

“Here’s the remainder of the money,” she said, handing him the money. “And also, you can take all those things I have bought,” she looked at the shopping goods on the coffee table.

“Huh?”

“I mean, I use your money to buy them. So… practically, they belong to you,” she said.

He looked at the shopping bags and smirked.

“And here’s the money,” she said, gesturing him to take the cash in her hand. “Please take them,”

He turned to look at her, “I asked you if the money I gave you is enough. I didn’t ask you to return the money or the leftover of it,” he said. “And the stuffs you bought are all yours. I don’t want it. And besides, do you think I have a use for it?”

“I buy them because I have to entertain your wife…”

“Then don’t meet up with her anymore. In that way, you won’t feel so burdensome that you need to entertain her,” he said.

She looked at Xi Men for uttering that.

“She went out with you because of your divorce. She wants to know what happened to you and she wants you to confide in her. She is treating you as her best friend,” Xi Men said.

Xiao You pressed her lips together as she looked at him.

“So if it is stressful for you to meet her or talk to her, don’t do it,” he said, gently pushing her hand that is holding the cash away; back to her. “And keep the money. Use it when you need it. If you don’t have a use for it, just leave it somewhere… wherever you want,”

Xiao You looked at him, unimpressed.  “Hello, this ‘thing’ is not something you can leave it somewhere or wherever. This is cash. You use this to buy stuffs,”

“Did you just come back?”

“Huh?” she looked at him, as he looked at her from top to bottom, and then back to the top again.

Is that how he changed the topic?

Pretty sudden.

“You don’t look like you are comfortable at home yet,” he said.

“Oh,” she said. “Yes, I just came back. Maybe a minute prior to you charging in into the house,” she finds herself rolling her eyes.

“Why so late?”

“Late?” she looked at the time on her wristwatch.

“I picked Juliana up and dropped her home and then come over, and you just got back?” he asked. “If you had left at the same time I pick Juliana…”

“I went for a quick dinner before I leave for home,”

“Oh,”

“Yeah. So I leave after that,”

He nodded. “That explains,” he said.

“But…” she said. “It didn’t seem to take you a long time to reach here…”

He smirked and then gives a small laugh, “I speed. Break some rules on road. And I ran; sprint maybe is the right word,”

Her eyes widened, “Break some rules on road?”

“Mm hmm,” he nodded. “Did not stop at yellow lights, gone beyond the speed limit…”

“Whoa…”

“Made some sharp turns without braking much…” he suddenly smiled. “It’s been a while since I’ve done that,”

She pressed her lips together.

“After I heard from Juliana that you met Ivy…”

She slowly raised her head up and looked at Xi Men, who is looking at the glass of water at the coffee table without a tinge of smile on his face anymore.

“I thought Ivy is going out with Mark,” Xi Men said. “And I thought you are going to see him with her; right in front of you,”

Xiao You took a deep breath, “I thought the same thing too…”

“I am slightly relieved when I heard it wasn’t Mark, because… at least you don’t have to see him,”

Xiao You smiled faintly.

“But… it’s still Ivy…” Xi Men said.

Xiao You lowered her head down.

“And then she talked about Mark,”

Xiao You nodded.

“Can you tell me what Ivy has said?” he looked at her.

“She has confirmed about the part that you didn’t ask her to seduce Mark. And it was Mark that wants to cheat on me,” Xiao You said.

Xi Men is slightly surprised to hear that. He did not expect her to mention this first, of all the things she could say.

“Mark lied about everything. He told her about how problematic our marriage was. He told her how successful and financially stable Liu Management is. He manipulated her into believing that if he is ever found out he is with her, he is going to lose all his assets to me in a divorce proceeding,” Xiao You said.

Xi Men looked at her.

“The truth is, my marriage with Mark is good. We do not have any problems. We are not divorcing. There are no divorce proceedings or whatsoever close to it that is happening or might be happening. Liu Management did not have projects for almost a year now and financially, it is already eating up into personal accounts,” Xiao You said. “Because Liu Management has not made an impression in Taiwan and we have just come over to Taipei, there is no detailed or proper background check available for Ivy,”

Xi Men swallowed the lump in his throat. “She do not hire a private investigator like me… she usually does the check on her own,”

Xiao You lowered her head. “So, in the end… from Ivy’s statements, I know how it happened. Mark comes up with all of these stories signifies he has intention to cheat on me with Ivy…”

He looked at her, watching her biting her lower lip, as she controlled her emotions.

And then he notes that tears are pooling in her eyes.

He immediately moves closer to Xiao You and wrapped his hand around her shoulder.

“I am sorry, I shouldn’t have asked this,” he said, gently pulling her to him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,”

Xiao You sniffed as he made her head leaned on his shoulder.

“Mark said he loves me. All the years I have been with him, he has been loyal to me. And once he is in Taipei, he does this…”

“Xiao You, don’t think about it. Don’t. Stop,” he said, rubbing her arm.

“He broke my heart. He totally broke my heart…” she sniffed again, closed her eyes and tears fell.

“Xiao You…”

She raised her right hand up and covers her nose and mouth.

She sniffed again.

Loud.

Sob.

Xi Men lifted his head up and after swallowing the lump in his throat, turned her over to him and hugs her, as she cried hurtfully into his chest.

*****

Xiao You scrubs the black and nude colored patch on the white shirt, looking extremely worried.

Xi Men smirked as he looked at her scrubbing worriedly on his shirt in her hands.

“Hey,”

She lifted her head up to look at him briefly with her worried gaze before she lowered and then looked at the colored patch and continue to scrub. “What…”

“If you can’t remove it, it is okay,” he said, looking at her working on the patch where she had wetted just the area with water and then puts a little detergent in hopes to clean it.

“What do you mean IT IS OKAY?! Of course I must remove this! You need to wear this and go back! What if Juliana saw this?!” she said apprehensively. “I shouldn’t have cried into your shirt! All my mascara and face powder and… urghhhh…”

“Well, this is not the first time you do this to me,”

Xiao You lifted her head slightly, before she then looked at him, who is topless right now. “Right, I recalled it now. What and how did you deal with it?”

“I actually discarded the shirt and get a new one on my way to meeting,”

Xiao You looked worried again, “But you are going back home…” she scrubbed the patch again.

“I’ll just cover it up with my coat. I’ll find a way,” he said, and he then puts his left hand on his stomach.

“It is better that I clean this up. I made this. So I better clean it,” she said, continue to scrub.

“Oh well,” he said.

He watches her scrubbing the shirt again.

She scrubs, stops and looked at it. And then scrubs again.

Xi Men cringed a little.

“It is fading. I just need a bit more time,” Xiao You said, and then she lifted her head up and looked at Xi Men, seeing he cringed. “Xi Men, are you alright?”

Xi Men looked at Xiao You, “Oh, yeah,” he forces a smile on his face. “I am,”

“Really? You looked uncomfortable or something…”

“Umm… actually… do you have anything to eat?”

Xiao You stares at Xi Men, and then at his hand on his stomach. “Oh. Right. You haven’t had dinner…” she turns around and looked at the kitchen. “Err…”

“Biscuit or anything maybe?”

“Can you wait for an hour?” Xiao You asked, turned and looked at him.

“Har? An hour?”

“Umm… I need to take a while to cook. Preparing the ingredients needs…”

“Nothing that can be consumed immediately? Instant?” he interrupted and asked.

“Umm…” her mind is firing at all directions.

She frowned slightly as she tries to recall what she has in the kitchen cabinets.

“What about 5 minutes?” she asked, slightly embarrassed.

“Yes, I can put up with that,” he said.

“Then wait for me,” she quickly rose to her feet.

*****

Xiao You gazes at Xi Men who is slurping down the instant noodles that she had cooked for him.

She smiled as she returned her gaze to the shirt she has been trying to clean for a while now.

After she had to leave to cook for Xi Men, the patch had dried up so basically the process to clear up the patch completely will take slightly longer now.

They didn’t exchange any words as he eats his food and she does her stuff.

“Thank you,”

She lifted her head up and looked at him, putting down the chopsticks.

“For the instant noodles,” he smiled.

“No problem,” she smiled too. “Is it enough? Or do you need more food?”

“It is enough,” he said. “Thank you,”

“Okay,” she smiled. “There’s just tiny bit of colors left on the patch,” she showed to him.

“Looks good,” he said after looking at the patch.

“Once I get them removed completely, I’ll use my hairdryer to dry this patch and then you can wear it again,” she said.

“Alright,” he said, reaching for the glass of water in front of him and then takes a sip.

After he puts it down, he looked at her working hard on cleaning the blot.

He watches her…

And admires her beauty.

How much she has changed over the years.

She lifted her eyes up and then meets his gaze.

She is slightly surprised at that.

But he just smiled.

“Umm… why are you looking at me like that?” Xiao You asked.

“Nothing. Just find your attention to it is fascinating,” he said, his eyes went to his shirt and he could not see anything but whiteness. “Do you have Chinese tea?” he said and then looked at Xiao You.

“You mean, you want to drink Chinese tea?” she asked.

“I can wait for you to boil water,” he smiled.

She smiled, “I can boil the water, but sorry, I don’t have Chinese tea leaves here,”

“Oh,” he said, his smile fades. “You are not a tea person?”

“More of a coffee person,” she said. “But I like Chinese tea too. I drink it once in a while. But since I have moved over not too long ago, I don’t have anything other than necessities here. And Chinese tea does not fall under the ‘necessary’ items,”

He smiled, as he reached for the glass of water again. “Well, alright then,”

She smiled as she looked at the shirt in her hand.

“How do you know it was me fetching Juliana today? She told you?”

“More precisely, I asked. I thought it’s the chauffeur but she said it’s you…”

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” he asked.

She looked at him. “Truth?”

“I hardly offered to fetch Juliana because I don’t like to adjust my time around her shopping hours and go to pick her up. That is why I have a chauffeur and it is his job to pick her. But today I told Juliana I want to pick her up because I want to see you even just for 2 seconds at the entrance,”

Xiao You looked at him.

That’s pretty much what she thought.

“But I saw you walking away,” he said. “So, that’s the ‘2 seconds’ I have to see you,”

“Is that why you… came?” Xiao You asked.

“Came here?” he asked.

She nods.

“To see you, you mean?” he asked.

“Yeah…”

“No. I came because of Ivy. Because of Mark,” Xi Men said. “Because I don’t know how you will feel or might feel upon hearing what she had said,”

Xiao You forces a smile on her face, “Thank you. But I am okay,”

“Do you need any help here? Tell me. I’ll make sure you will settle down comfortably,” he said.

She looked at him.

‘Settle down comfortably’.

She lowered her head, smiled and shook. “No. I am fine for now. Thank you,” she said.

BEEP.

Xi Men and Xiao You turned their heads to look at Xi Men’s phone on the dining table.

Xi Men scoops the phone up and takes a look at the newly message.

Group conversation.

Ah Si: Just to let everybody know, I have formally rejected Mark’s management system today.

“Ah Si said…” Xi Men paused.

Xiao You looked at Xi Men.

Xi Men looked at Xiao You, as for a moment, he had only thought of telling Xiao You what Ah Si had messaged, but temporarily forgotten her relationship with Mark.

“Hmmm?” Xiao You asked.

“He… he said…” Xi Men stammered.

“About?”

Xi Men swallowed the lump in his throat. “He said he had rejected Mark’s system,”

There is a tiny change on her facial expression. “Oh,” she said. “Okay,”

“Are… are you okay?” he asked again.

She smiled, “Yeah, why would I not be okay?” she asked. “It’s Mark’s problem. Not mine,”

He looked at her.

“Anyway,” she took a deep breath. “I have successfully removed the blot. I’ll dry it up now and then you can wear it and leave,” she smiled briefly and stands up.

His eyes followed her as she walked away with his shirt in her hand.


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